Melbourne VIC, Australia, 17 December 2016 |

A larger-than-life statue of the legendary Rod Laver will appear at Melbourne Park on the eve of Australian Open 2017.

The stunning bronze statue, crafted by renowned sculptor Lis Johnson, will be unveiled by Rod Laver in early January.

“Rod Laver is undoubtedly one of the greatest tennis players the world has ever seen, and we are delighted to further honour his achievements with this stunning work of art,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.

“As one of Australia’s most revered sporting figures it’s only fitting that Rod Laver welcomes the public to ‘his’ arena, whether it’s for the Australian Open or the many other concerts and events staged there every year.

“This spectacular sculpture, which captures the essence of the great Rod Laver, will be a tribute to his contribution to tennis in Australia and around the world for generations to come.”

Artist Lis Johnson, creator of many of Melbourne’s best known sporting sculptures, was initially apprehensive at the prospect of reproducing such a universally renowned figure.

“Rod Laver’s international iconic status is daunting and I was anxious about creating a worthy tribute,” she said.

“Meeting Rod Laver has been both an honour and a great pleasure and I’m looking forward to him seeing the final result.

“Rod welcomed me into his home, helped me with my research, answered all my queries, let me measure his head with my strange instruments and generously gave me access to all his photos.

“It’s always challenging to try to convey athleticism and dynamism in a static solid material, but this sculpture was the most difficult I’ve tackled, with the action pose almost impossible for my life-models to hold, so I had to use my imagination and understanding of anatomy.

“I focused on trying to get the right kind of energy, and importantly ensure the sculpture worked and looked interesting from every angle.

Laver is looking forward to seeing the finished statue, having visited the clay model during the creation process.

“It’s fantastic, Lis Johnson has done a great job and really captured the essence of my game,” Laver said.

“I was one of the smaller players and the great thing about retirement is that the writers and the artists enlarge your reputation.

“I hope the new sculpture will bring more crowds to Melbourne Park. And maybe encourage people to pick up a racquet and play the game. I think good public art lifts the spirits and inspires the soul.”

Laver will be joined by Johnson to unveil the new statue at Melbourne Park in the first week of January.

This marks the start of a very busy year for the man many call the greatest player of all time, with the inaugural Laver Cup, a tournament named in his honour and featuring the stars of Europe against the rest of the world, taking place in Prague in September.